The Beavers are coming off a pretty impressive season where they finished 9-4 overall and 3rd in the Pac 10 at 6-3 with a strong finish. There is once again hope that this rebuilding version of the team can have another winning season under head coach Mike Riley, who is 47-38 in seven seasons at Oregon State.
Jake Locker was knocked out of the game and taken to the hospital the last time these two teams played. Despite that the Huskies were driving for the win deep in Beaver territory in the last minute only to squander the opportunity by not running hard inside the tackles. There won't be a lot of love between these two teams when they meet in Seattle this year.
The Beavers lost 10 starters from last season’s squad, and will only have 3 starters coming back on defense.
With seven starters returning on offense, this unit could be able to put up some impressive numbers this season. Lyle Moevao, and or Sean Canfield need to markedly improve for that to become a reality.
Whoever ends up at quarterback should have no trouble finding targets as Sammie Stroughter is a big time player and the team has young talent in sophomores Darrell Catchings and James Rodgers, and solid veteran talent in seniors Shane Morales and Chris Johnson.
The Beavers are high on redshirt freshman Ryan McCants at running back, but have some solid back up options in junior college transfer Jeremy Francis and true freshman Jaquizz Rodgers.
There are three returning starters on the line and on paper the team only needs to find a center and right tackle. The key is the return to health of guard Jeremy Perry , the Beavers are thin on the OL, and his healthy return will boost the unit.
Oregon State produced the best rush defense in the country last season, but all four starters on the line are gone. The team hopes that because it used a deep rotation that they will be able to produce another solid unit here. It looks like pass rushing specialist Victor Butler will get a shot at one of the end spots along with junior college transfer Simi Kuli. Pernnell Booth if healthy could be a solid defensive tackle, but missed most of spring with an ankle injury. Kuli is still waiting for word on his eligibility, but the Beaver coaches are optimistic.
All three starting linebackers are gone, but Bryant Cornell and Keaton Kristick should step in nicely, and there are a number of others vying for the other starting spot. This is probably the biggest question mark on the defense, can the new LB's make an impact in 2008?
The secondary should improve on its 72nd ranked pass defense, as it returns three starters including both corners from last season in Brandon Hughes and Keenan Lewis. Al Afalava should be a force at safety and it looks like senior Bryan Payton will get a shot at holding onto the other starting spot. It will be interesting to see how the Huskies greet Aflalava in 2008 after the cheap shot he took on Jake Locker last season.
OSU is also rebuilding their special teams in 2008. Graduated is Alex Serna who tormented the Huskies over the past four years.
How do you beat Oregon State?
Teams should be able to run on the Beavers better in 2008 since they are rebuilding their front seven. The defensive backfield provides good run support, but they don't exactly resemble a lockdown group. The linebackers are raw, and unproven.
Offensively the lack of talent at the QB position, and the depth of the OL could hold back a potentially explosive offense led by some great skill players at WR, and RB. Opposing teams will try to force the OSU QB's into mistakes that score points.
OSU's defense was a great equalizer in past years because it made up for less than stellar play at QB, this year the Beavers won't have that luxury.
What do I think?
We have these guys at home, and we should be able to beat them in 2008. If you want to get to the next level you need to expect to beat Oregon State. Just because you expect it doesn't mean it will happen. People keep trying to downgrade the Beavers each season, and the excellent coaching staff keeps coming up with ways to win.
This should be a pretty close game, and what Washington needs to do is show they can put some points up on the Beavers and make them play catch up for a change.
Whatever the outcome of the game bet on the Beavers to be bowling somehwere again in 2008.